How do I know if an interest is a special interest?

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L_Holmes
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24 Dec 2014, 12:39 am

I have an interest in singing that I think would probably qualify as a special interest, but what really makes an interest a special interest?

For one thing it seems to be my only real interest. If someone asks me about my hobbies or interests, singing is the main thing, followed by listening to (and singing along with) my music, and that's pretty much it. I do have other interests, but nothing really comes close to my interest in singing.

I have also had MANY situations where people have commented on how much I sing. At school I would sing to myself quietly in the hallways, this mainly happened in my senior year. Apparently some people were kind of creeped out as they thought I was constantly talking to myself. This same thing has happened at past jobs, and I've already been told a few times at my current job (I've been there only 2 months) that I need to either sing quietly or not sing at all. The last time, my boss was with a customer, and I guess they could hear me because he opened the door to tell me I need to quiet down, and the lady he was with was covering her mouth laughing. My parents also constantly got mad at me for singing too loudly, I would never realize how loudly I was really singing until they came down and yelled at me that they could hear me from 2 floors up. One time I was singing while lying in my bed at night, and there was a guest at our house, a family friend with a couple of her kids, at the time; she was in the next room. The next morning my dad told me, "You really need to be more considerate when we have guests. This morning she came and asked me, 'Does [L_Holmes] sing in his sleep? I could hear him singing for a while when I was trying to sleep.'" And sometimes people would catch me just doing vocal slides quietly (without me realizing I was even doing it).

Anyway, my point is that I sing pretty much whenever I can, and I tend to get pretty frustrated if I can't do this.

I also have researched singing and closely related topics (mainly the physiology of the human voice) quite a bit. I'm not an expert, but I suppose I probably know a lot more about it than the majority of people, especially for my age.

I normally never talk to anyone about it in detail, but the few times when people have asked I am pretty sure they regretted asking. My brother kept spacing out and I was getting mad that he wasn't listening, but I think it was probably because I was going into a ton of detail about it.

Anyway, to me this seems like it probably qualifies as a special interest. But what characteristics of an interest actually make something a special interest? I want to know because I'm trying to figure out if any of my childhood interests were special interests, but I can't remember clearly. My mom says I was "obsessed" with video games like my possibly autistic little brother (he's 10), but since I don't live there I don't really know the extent of his interest either. So I want to figure out what specific things I can ask her about it. Because especially with something like video games, a lot of kids like video games. I also liked origami a lot, but once again I don't really know if it would have qualified as an obsession.

And actually, I'm also wondering just in general what I should ask my mom about my childhood to get a better idea of autistic traits I may have had. I tried getting her to read lists of traits and the DSM V criteria, which she did, but her answers about how well they describe me are incredibly vague. She basically just tells me that, in general, they do describe me. Same with SPD, she texted me one day to tell me, "OMG, I just read about Sensory Processing Disorder, this describes what you were like as a kid!" But I want to know the specific details of why, and she doesn't usually seem to have any, just that they generally seem to describe me. Which is very frustrating, because she is the only person on the earth who knew me well as a child, and I really want to get a list of facts together so I can have a better idea than, "Generally I seemed to display autistic traits." Because that isn't going to help me in my evaluation.

Sorry for the length. I'm just getting kind of worried, because I want to make sure the psychologist knows specifically why I think I am autistic. But I figure childhood traits are better to include, and seeing as I don't really know many of the specific traits I had as a kid, and therefore will not be able to share any if I don't figure some out in less than a week, it is causing me anxiety :(


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Norny
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24 Dec 2014, 12:45 am

If it's perseverative and leaves little time for anything else.


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eggheadjr
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24 Dec 2014, 10:40 am

And you go on and on about it.

And on

and on

and on

and on and on and on and on.....

:D


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Persimmonpudding
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24 Dec 2014, 11:06 am

Singing.

An NT's concept of following an interest in singing is described thusly, in an appropriate context where someone else has brought up a related topic: "I like singing. I went to a voice training coach for a while, and I have a group of friends that I get together with on the first Saturday of every month. It's really fun!"

An uncultivated Aspie's concept of following an interest is described like, "I JUST GOT MY VOICE DOWN TO THE E3 RANGE, AND I HAVE A THOUSAND T-SHIRTS AND POSTERS! WOW! I'M GOING TO A CONVENTION NEXT WEEK WHERE THERE IS GOING TO BE SO MUCH FUN!" and that person interrupts unrelated conversations to ramble on over it, horning in on someone else's attempt to discuss goings on in their family or a local political issue to give them hour-long lectures on the topic. Basically, it's impossible to have a conversation with that person on any other topic, period.

A more cultivated Aspie just quietly teaches a class at the local community college on the topic and generally avoids pestering people with topics that would "bore them," only starting a discussion on the topic reluctantly after having imbibed a couple of drinks with an interested audience. Properly done, you can be life of the party discussing your special interest, but you have to learn good manners, and unfortunately, all the mainstream etiquette guides are written for neurotypicals.

So how do you learn the etiquette? Hang out here for a while!

And by the way, among Aspies, the phrase, "most people wouldn't be interested, and I don't want to be a bore" is a challenge.



Last edited by Persimmonpudding on 24 Dec 2014, 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

kraftiekortie
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24 Dec 2014, 11:07 am

At least your interest is not in some useless thing....singing is a great thing to be interested in. Maybe you could go on American Idol some day.

Speaking of which....have you research colleges where you could get into a Speech Pathology program? Remember: if you don't have the high school grades, you could redeem yourself by getting decent community college grades.



L_Holmes
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24 Dec 2014, 11:19 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
At least your interest is not in some useless thing....singing is a great thing to be interested in. Maybe you could go on American Idol some day.

Speaking of which....have you research colleges where you could get into a Speech Pathology program? Remember: if you don't have the high school grades, you could redeem yourself by getting decent community college grades.


I did some research, it seems the places I was looking at didn't have a bachelor's program in speech pathology specifically. I'm finding it's more common as a master's.

I had decent high school grades and a very high ACT so I think I will be fine getting into most universities. Hopefully they won't be able to look at my previous attempt at university. I failed miserably.


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kraftiekortie
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24 Dec 2014, 11:27 am

Youngstown State has a program in "Special Education--Intervention" at a place called "BCOE."

Success in this will smooth the path for you to get into a speech pathology master's program.



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24 Dec 2014, 11:40 am

I never had a special interest until I was at least 11. Before then, I had an interest in jungles, but it was not a special interest. It was just a casual interest. It's difficult to explain the differences, but I know they're there, and it's like trying to explain the colour blue. When I got to about 11, I started getting severe obsessions with certain people. I just wanted to talk about them all the time nonstop, and I couldn't stop thinking about them, and I got excited and delighted inside when I found out something new about the person or people that I'm obsessed with. But with jungles I wasn't like that at all. I was just interested in them, but didn't think about jungles 24/7 or want to talk about them forever or get excited whenever I found out a new fact about jungles.


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L_Holmes
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24 Dec 2014, 11:43 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
Youngstown State has a program in "Special Education--Intervention" at a place called "BCOE."

Success in this will smooth the path for you to get into a speech pathology master's program.


Thank you, I well definitely look into that.

On an unrelated note, could somebody answer my question about what i should ask my mom to get more details on my autistic traits as a child? It just seems like no matter what I ask her she never has a definitive, "Yes, you did this" or, "No, you didn't ever do this" answer. It seems the only thing she really remembers about me is that I hardly ever talked. She must remember more than that, I just think maybe she doesn't realize what I am asking for... :?


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kraftiekortie
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24 Dec 2014, 11:45 am

My mother remembers NEXT TO NOTHING about my childhood.

My impression: I don't think she's trying to hide anything; I think she really doesn't remember that much.



L_Holmes
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24 Dec 2014, 12:12 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
My mother remembers NEXT TO NOTHING about my childhood.

My impression: I don't think she's trying to hide anything; I think she really doesn't remember that much.


I cannot comprehend how a person could remember so little about their own child... I don't think she's trying to hide anything, but it really confuses me that even specific questions wouldn't jog her memory. The only thing she remembers besides my apparlent lack of interest in any sort of conversation, is that I've always had an EXTREMELY low tolerance for frustration, and that I displayed some signs of SPD (though she won't or can't tell me which ones). I would get sent home from school a lot because I'd be freaking out about something. Though it's not entirely clear to me if all or even some of those instances were meltdowns or just me getting really angry. I was definitely an angry kid. She said I usually got sent home several times a week up until 5th grade, I still got in trouble a lot. The principal was basically my only friend in 5th grade, I got sent to his office so much. The school made me go to behavioral therapy in 4th grade which didn't help at all.

But none of those things are necessarily caused by autism. Without more to go with it's difficult to say.


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kraftiekortie
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24 Dec 2014, 12:40 pm

LOL...My guidance counselor was my only friend during 7th and 8th grades, and HE wanted to expel me because I was so "weird."

I think parents remember things that had an impact upon THEM. They remember EVENTS, rather than the underlying reason for the events. By and large, most parents aren't deep thinkers--unless they're forced to be.



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24 Dec 2014, 2:43 pm

I think it's probably a continuum, so you could have a very interesting hobby which could also be called a mild special interest. Maybe a good test is whether or not pursuing the interest is getting in the way of the person's life, causing important practical matters to be ignored, causing friends and loved ones to be ignored for too long, channelling too much money into the interest, unknowingly getting into physical danger. Those things would at least point to whether or not it was a healthy interest.

I think full-blown special interests are often so narrowly specialised that it would be a very big ask for others to get involved, and the problem is confounded if the Aspie doesn't know how to teach the material. So I guess one hallmark of extreme cases is that the interest isn't shared. One thing I like to do is to try to have broader interests than that, and to carefully try to share them. And to resist the temptation to get sucked into hyperfocus mode until I've managed to set a timer to warn me to come back to Earth. A few years ago ago I was setting up my computer for broadband for the first time, and my new partner was there. Experience had finally taught me what happens when I focus on something like that, so I was very careful to hang onto the overview and look for natural breaks in the broadband set-up, and found them. During the breaks I managed to think of short, intelligible "headline" things to say about what was going on (I couldn't have explained while I was working because of the hyperfocus). I also had to fight an anxiety that I'd forget where I was at when I returned to the job - it does take me more time to resume after an interruption, and it can feel like I've forgotten, but it usually comes back soon enough. Prior to that, I'd have just zoned out for as long as it took to get that broadband working, and knowing computers, that could have been a long time.

It feels great to be working on a special interest as long as you don't have need to worry about it going too far. I get a great buzz out of trying to achieve an ambitious goal such as trying to perform music really well, or trying to complete a collection of anything. Not that I'm always doing such things. I spent many years of my life on very isolated special interests, and although it was fascinating, it was also very lonely, and I regret a lot of it. So I try to manage my special interests better these days.



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24 Dec 2014, 4:13 pm

For me, I know it's a special interest when it fills me with joy and makes me feel safe secure. When my mood lifts every time I see a picture of my favorite animated characters or watch the movies they are in. :)


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